Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters arrested after allegedly recording court hearing

Stina Sieg/CPR News
Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters has faced controversy since she questioned the legitimacy of Dominion voting machines and allegedly allowed a nonemployee access to the voting machines. She was later barred from overseeing the 2021 election.

UPDATED at 8:45 a.m., Feb. 10: Mesa County's Republican clerk and recorder was charged Wednesday with obstructing an officer after resisting efforts to search her iPad after a warrant was issued. Read our latest report about Peters' latest legal troubles.

Our original story follows below.

Mesa county’s Republican clerk and recorder, Tina Peters, who is currently being investigated by a grand jury for election tampering and misconduct, was arrested on unrelated charges Tuesday in Grand Junction.

The incident occurred as police were trying to carry out a search warrant to seize Peters’ iPad to determine whether she illegally recorded a criminal court hearing Monday.

According to the affidavit for the search warrant, Peters may have used her iPad to film part of the hearing, in spite of posted signs saying recordings are prohibited, and then lied to the judge about her actions. If Peters is found to have done those things, she could be charged with attempting to influence a public servant.

The court hearing was in the case of Mesa county’s deputy clerk, Belinda Knisley. Knisley was placed on paid leave last year after allegations of workplace misconduct. Knisley is charged with burglary and misdemeanor cyber crimes for allegedly returning to the clerk’s office in spite of an order requiring her to stay away, and trying to access the election office’s secure computer systems using Peters’ login information.

“As the hearing developed, Paralegal Haley Gonzalez and (Deputy District Attorney) D.D.A. Jonathan Mosher noticed a female known to them to be Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters using an Apple iPad to apparently record the proceeding,” wrote Investigator Michael Struwe in the affidavit.

The document goes on to state that Mesa County district attorney Dan Rubenstein then made the judge, Matthew Barrett, aware of the situation, and the judge warned the courtroom that if he learned someone was recording, “he would take appropriate legal action.”  Later in the hearing Barrett told the court that he had been assured by Peters that she was not recording.

The investigator said after the hearing both Gonzalez and Mosher told him they were certain Peters was recording or attempting to and “when discovered, appeared to try to stop the recording and conceal her iPad in a bag she carried on her person.”

The warrant shows a picture of Peters sitting in the courtroom with what appears to be an iPad in front of her.

Peters' arrest caught on video

The Grand Junction Police Department arrested Peters at a bagel shop in Grand Junction on Tuesday morning and released her “pending charges,” according to a press release. 

An arrest affidavit is forthcoming.

Video from a witness shared by 9News shows Peters trying to pull away from officers as they restrain her arms, and shouting at police. “Let go of me,” she yells as they try to handcuff her. “Let go of me, let go of me. It hurts. Let go of me, give me my keys.” She then appears to kick at the officer. He responds. “Do not kick, do you understand?” After more shouting and back and forth she is eventually led outside.

In response to the day's events, a group formed to help Peters in her legal troubles told CPR News in an email, "The search warrant presented listed exactly one item, an iPad with a white case. Clerk Peters complied with that, then officers began attempting to take other items of personal property, not listed in the warrant including her car keys, which is illegal."

The Tina Peters Legal Defense Fund said it is looking at potential legal action over the incident.

Arrest unrelated to ongoing investigation into Peters' actions

Peters’ arrest is unrelated to the ongoing investigation of her role in an alleged election security breach in her office, for which a grand jury is currently considering potential criminal charges. 

In the election security case, Peters is accused of allowing an unauthorized person to make copies of sensitive voting machine hard drives. Information from the voting machines and secure passwords were later shared with election conspiracy theorists online. 

Investigators also claim Peters misled state officials about the unauthorized man's identity in order to allow him to be present for an annual update of the county’s Dominion Voting Systems machines. Updates are restricted to a small number of people who have undergone background checks and work either for the state, the clerk’s office or the voting machine company.

Peters has vehemently denied doing anything wrong and has said it was well within her right as an elected clerk to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. 

“Some powerful people don't want us to look at the facts,” Peters told supporters at a rally last fall.  

A false election conspiracy circulated by supporters of former president Trump claims that Dominion used their machines to subvert the 2020 election, and then hid the evidence during  routine software updates. State audits and hand counts in a number of states have verified the accuracy of the 2020 election in Colorado and nationally. 

Mesa County also recently completed a hand count of the 2021 election and stands by the accuracy of the results. The county found that the hand tally varied from the machine count by less than a tenth of a percent.

Peters is running for reelection in the fall. The state has also filed a lawsuit to ban her from overseeing the 2022 election. A judge previously barred her from overseeing last year's election. 

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a response from the Tina Peters Legal Defense Fund.